Sunday, December 16, 2007

The UFT and Mayoral Control

The issue mayoral control has come up on the nyceducation news listserve, one of the leading parent blogs in NYC (which by the way just added Debbie Meier along with Diane Ravitch) following a thread on the future of mayoral control. I was pointing out the role I expect the UFT to take in the debate to people who weer thinking I am just casting blame on the UFT and think we should move beyond that. Graphic by David Bellel.

It is not a question of trying to pin blame but to explore history so people are aware when it is repeated. And it will be repeated. The UFT has rejected all attempts by some of us to draw some line in the sand on mayoral control. The attempt will be to pin the problem on the particular mayor not the system and the UFT also expects to be able to put its own mayor into power - ie. Bill Thompson, so why kill the potential golden goose?

The UFT is the gorilla in the room and no matter what is said, no matter how many governance task forces there and how often they meet (they will be holding borough meetings soon) the history of the UFT points towards supporting some form of mayoral control.

The task force report will look great on paper - it will catalogue all the evils of mayoral control but the UFT will not use its muscle to force serious changes. But those actions and inactions will be hidden so they can claim they are for whatever. A very similar situation with the UFT task force on testing last year - they issued a decent report in May and then go on to in effect support the advancement of high stakes testing in their actions - see merit pay.

Why go through a sham when policy has already been decided? To be able to go on record that
Some feel they were ignorant of what was happening in Chicago - not so. This is their policy.

The danger to politicians and parent groups is that everyone is afraid to offend the gorilla. So no real alternatives can emerge from any strong advocacy group as long as the UFT is viewed as a possible ally. Only when people are free from that allegiance, can they act.

Otherwise, the play will play out with a pre-written script.

My goal is to keep pointing out the signposts so people can recognize where the train is going and hopefully get off in time.

On Leonie's question as to what will replace it - and that we don't want to go back to the old system - I feel the kids got better services and the parents had a place to go and knew who to call. The procedure was bulky and ineffective in so many ways - but if you study some history you will find the UFT played a role in setting that up back in the late 60's - I won't go into the gory details. But there can be a better way to put some local control into effect and we shouldn't just throw out the baby with the bath water on this because a distorted system didn't work. Undistort it.

We had mayoral control in essence before the late 60's and many thought it wasn't working then. Centralized control over a system this large is the problem, even with oversights.

But this is a discussion that should begin taking place now. If people are waiting for the UFT task force and get sucked up into the UFT game waiting for something to emerge it will be a black hole.

My original post:
People sure could have anticipated the excesses of mayoral control from the stories coming out of Chicago where Mayor Daly and Paul Vallas were 5 years ahead of NY in their shenanigans.

The NYTimes had quotes from Debbie Meier in the fall of 2002 warning about this.

Ed Notes was printing warnings from George Schmidt and raising the issue with the UFT from 2001 on.
It should have been obvious: if you turn education into a total political entity then they will take the test score route to "success" because they are so easy to manipulate.

The UFT which supposedly represents educators was a key player and could have thrown enough roadblocks into the process to force some "thinking it all through." But then again the UFT itself is not really run by educators but by politicians.

In case you wonder why I and others have such strong feelings about the UFT on so many issues.

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